If you have a stash of airline points and miles that have been collecting digital dust because you’re intimidated about how (and when, and for where) to use them, here’s a tip from a professional miles earner and spender on the best time, or more specifically the best two times, to book.
“There are lots of misconceptions from people about redeeming miles and how tough it can be,” says One Mile at a Time blogger Ben Schlappig, who earns about 2 million points each year — and uses them to redeem an insane $1 million worth of luxury travel annually.
“In general the best time to redeem miles is about a year out when the airline first opens their schedule, or very last minute,” he says. So if you’re a planner, you’re in luck on the first count.
Or if you’re one of those folks like Ben with few commitments tying them to a specific place and time at a given moment, try the flip side — booking right under the wire.
“Since I don’t plan a year out, that means often that I’m planning very last minute,” he says. “I have redeemed miles for tickets to other continents hours before departure, where the few hours before the flight takes off, I book my ticket. That’s actually more common than not — and that’s quite fun in a way.”
Actually, it has both it’s pluses and minuses. “It’s exciting, it’s exhilarating. At the same time, you don’t have the excitement to looking forward to a trip,” he says. (Tiny violin.)
“In my case, I’ve had days where I’ve had to check out of a hotel at 4 p.m. and at 3 p.m. I still don’t know where I’m going,” Ben says. “That drives my travel companions nuts!"
FOLLOW BEN'S JOURNEY AROUND THE WORLD:
Here’s what it's like to fly in an empty first-class cabin:
Ben Schlappig, the blogger behind One Mile at a Time, experiences about $1 million worth of travel every year using miles and points — and covers about 400,000 miles annually this way. Ben has teamed up with Bravo’s Jet Set for a series called The Upgrade, in which he shows you how you — yes, you! — can score real-world-ready strategies for upping your travel game. Come along for the adventure!
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